Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi lived as a renunciant in a small town in India. Yet through his teachings he became a well-known spiritual teacher. His grace has enabled thousands of people to progress spiritually. And during his lifetime a small number of his devotees attained liberation.
At an early age, Bhagavan was attracted to the religion of Shaivism that considers Shiva to be the supreme being that we in the west refer to as God. Bhagavan attained liberation when he was 16 years old. Then he spent the rest of his life on and around Arunachala Mountain in Tiruvannamalai. For thousands of years saints have considered Arunachala to be a physical manifestation if Shiva. According to Bhagavan, the many people that traveled to see him were actually drawn by the spiritual power of the mountain.
I was introduced to Ramana Maharshi’s teachings in 2013 and since then they have become an important part of my spiritual path. My favorites include Who Am I?, The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi in His Own Words, Be As You Are, Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Guru Vachaka Kovai, and Padamalai.
Saints are one with Source while incarnate in a physical body. And after droping the body, they remain a conduit through which we can access with the deeper reality. Though Ramana Maharshi passed away in 1950, his grace is still available to anyone who puts forth the effort to establish an internal connection with him.
Each saint manifests certain enlightened qualities more strongly than others. And they draw others to the divine in their own way. Because of our unique accumulation of past conditioning, we are drawn to certain saints that are a good fit for our spiritual path.
I have created an internal connection with several saints and what follows is my subjective impression of them, as seen through the filter of my remaining karma. When I consciously connect with Meher Baba or Jesus my heart opens, and I can feel the divine love that they express toward all life forms. When Mother Meera is giving darshan, I perceive the divine light more than anything else. And yet the love that she expresses toward others is always available. When she is not giving darshan and I turn my attention to her, love is what I experience most strongly.
Through Ramana Maharshi’s teachings my system was introduced to a deep, profound stillness that many refer to as Shiva. I perceive no difference between it and the subtle divine presence that emanates from Arunachala.
There are many ways of experiencing the divine. Through Bhagavan’s teachings, I learned how to integrate the stillness of Shiva into my spiritual path.
I was first exposed to the energy of Shiva while on the banks of the Ganges River in Varanasi, India. In Hindu spiritual philosophy, Varanasi and the Ganges are both expressions of Shiva. And I was there during Shivaratri, the day each year that Shiva walks the earth.
I was walking on the sidewalk next to the Ganges, and to my surprise all the different forms I perceived felt the same. I could see external objects, such as dogs and people, who looked as though they existed separately from one another. But I felt only the one universal consciousness that permeates and sustains all forms—Shiva. And now each year during Shivaratri, I become immersed in Shiva as if I were once again standing next to the Ganges in Varanasi.
After learning how to attune to the presence of Bhagavan and Arunachala, I noticed a difference between it and the energy of Shiva that I feel during Shivaratri. During Shivaratri the energy of Shiva is lighter and more pervasive. When attuning to Bhagavan and Arunachala, the energy is stronger and deeper.
Self-Enquiry and Devotion
Many people are aware that Bhagavan taught a spiritual practice called self-enquiry in which a person focuses on the source of the ego (or the “I”) as a way of stilling the mind and connecting with the deeper reality. Bhagavan considered self-enquiry a direct path and superior to other spiritual practices that keep the ego active and eventually lead to the same place as self-enquiry. Self-enquiry is a profound spiritual practice that has helped many people to progress spiritually. You may find that it helps you as well.
What is less well known is that Bhagavan considered devotion and self-enquiry to be equally useful spiritual practices. Many of his devotees, such as Papaji and Lakmana Swamy, attained liberation through devotion to Bhagavan instead of practicing self-enquiry.
For a long time, I had limited success with self-enquiry. Focusing my attention on the inner feeling of “I” tended to keep my awareness trapped within the ego and the false sense of individuality. Self-enquiry seemed to get in the way of the profound deep stillness that was occurring naturally when immersing myself in the Bhagavan’s teachings.
Then a spiritual breakthrough occurred. The state of stillness became more accessible. And now self-enquiry quickly draws me into the stillness.
Videos about Ramana Maharshi
There are video clips of Ramana Maharshi in his later years, when film cameras became more readily available. Many of these clips have been put together in an hour-long video that you can see on YouTube by searching for “Ramana Maharshi archival footage.” I often play this video in the bottom right corner of my computer screen while writing. It allows me to attune to the energy of Shiva that emanates from Bhagavan’s form. And while deeply connected, I’m able to be more creative.
David Godman has a YouTube channel with a series of videos about Bhagavan’s life and his devotees that I would highly recommend to everyone. I have watched all 27 videos at least four times through. They are a way for me to align with the energy of Ramana Maharshi and Arunachala while taking a break from writing.
According to the documentary, after Bhagavan moved near Arunachala he became a renunciant and spent years unable to speak. This is the first time I had heard of a saint who had lost the ability to communicate verbally. And it confirmed that my experiences are due to some kind of internal shift that takes a while for the physical body to catch up.